Region I, Abra farmers frown at Visaya’s appointment into NIA

STA. CRUZ, ILOCOS SUR – Farmers in the Ilocos region and Abra see the appointment of former Armed Forces Chief of Staff Ricardo Visaya as government’s “ double whammy”.
Farmer-members of the Solidarity of Peasants Against Exploitation (STOP Exploitation), a federation of farmers’ organization in Ilocos and Abra, describe the recent developments in the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) as “adding an insult to injury.”
“The appointment of Ricardo Visaya as NIA chief, a known human rights violator just after firing Peter Lavina for corruption allegations is a double whammy for farmers,” says Zaldy Alfiler, secretary general of the STOP Exploitation.
President Rodrigo Duterte has appointed Visaya to take over Lavinia, amidst allegations of corruption. He reportedly demanded 40% cut from NIA projects.
Alfiler said, “with a human rights violator at the helm of the agency, it is more likely that we will receive free reign of terror than free and better irrigation service.”
Alfiler reminds that Visaya was a trusted protege of Gen. Jovito Palparan and was the ground commander of the Philippine Army’s 69th Infantry Batallion during the 2004 Hacienda Luisita Massacre that killed seven farmworkers in the disputed Cojuangco-Aquino landholdings.
Farmers in Ilocos and Abra also ranted that in Mindanao, Visaya served as the commander of the Philippine Army’s 4th Infantry Division and the 69th Infantry Battalion who were allegedly responsible for killing and forcible evacuation of farmers and Lumad in the island.
Alfiler said that even with Visaya’s appointment as NIA chief, corruption in the agency will not be solved pointing that during his stint as AFP Chief, Visaya failed to address rampant corruption in the AFP.
“Besides free irrigation, we demand for a more transparent accounting of the funds alloted for NIA especially now that the office is ran by an individual that came from a corrupt and secretive institution,” Alfiler added.
Late last year, the Department of Agriculture (DA) and the NIA announced that irrigation services would be free starting 2017.
Congress alloted additional P2-billion for the NIA this year to cover the ISF collected by the agency from farmers’ irrigators associations. Ace Alegre / ABN

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